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grmr.me makes essay grading easy for English teachers

gorillasfavicon Most English teachers agree: The worst part of the job is grading students’ essays.

And when I say “grading,” I use that term interchangeably with “assessing,” “giving feedback on,” “reading,” and “evaluating.”

Let me be clear: I love looking at a student’s writing and offering suggestions for improvement. But I don’t like looking at 150 students’ writing. It takes way too long.

Plus, commenting on a student’s essay (whether it’s actually on paper or on Google Docs or even on EssayTagger, which is cool but expensive) doesn’t teach the student anything about writing.

I can correct run-on sentences all day, but that doesn’t mean that my student will magically avoid them in the future. Or I can spend time writing a little note explaining the three ways to fix a run-on sentence. But that takes way too long, and who wants to read weird tidbits about random grammar rules?

This is why I’m really excited about grmr.me, a relatively new service by Kevin Brookhouser, an English teacher in California. Check out the intro video:

See how neat? Instead of making tons of corrections, you focus on your students’ main grammar challenges and direct them to watch a video that actually teaches them how to improve.

Mr. Brookhouser’s videos are short and funny, and students can take a quick quiz to see if they get the concept. Right now, I count 18 videos, including ones covering big-ticket items like subject-verb agreement, literary present tense, its vs. it’s, and comma splices.

It’s possible, of course, that watching a video won’t immediately cause a student to eradicate a longstanding grammar issue (follow-up practice is necessary), but what I love about grmr.me is that it reminds me that I’m a writing teacher, not a copyreader. And it tells students that grammar is actually a thing that can be learned, not just silly little inconsequential red squiggly marks on an essay.

Check out grmr.me and let me know what you think! favicon

11 comments

  1. Mark Isero

    Yeah, Michele, I agree. What’s neat is that teachers can work more purposefully with their students on grammar. They can identify one grammar problem in each essay and then challenge students to take care of business (i.e., learn about it, practice it, figure it out, and understand it so they don’t repeat it). Then, at the end of the semester (or course), students can say, “Hey, I actually learned some grammar in that class.”

    Michele (and others!), how do you plan on using grmr.me?

  2. Meg Griswold

    I had thought to try to create something like this myself last summer, but I didn’t get the stipend I applied for. This is even better! Can’t wait to play around with this.

    • Mark Isero

      Hey Meg, I’m happy that you’re interested. Please let me know what you think!

      What I like about it is that it’s quick and easy. As far as I know, Kevin is not trying to make this into some Khan Academy for Grammar. He’s just trying to help English teachers with grading and students with learning. I like that it’s simple and grounded.

      Things like grmr.me always help me question my teaching. Why am I marking papers this way? What is the best way to teach grammar? How is my progress?

      Thank you again for continuing the conversation.

  3. Kevin Eagan

    Wow, thanks for sharing! This is so helpful for teachers and tutors. I’ve passed this on to some of my colleagues and I’ve let the staff at my campus Writing Center know about this tool!

    I like the idea of students receiving a “badge” at the end of the tutorial. I’ve been thinking a lot about assessment and how the standard letter grading system isn’t effective when assessing a student’s writing. This might be an alternative, especially in the early stages of the writing process.

    • Mark Isero

      Kevin, thank you for commenting! I agree with you that there is something not-quite-right about the traditional letter grading system. Some teachers try to switch things up by using a rubric with a numerical system (0-4 or 0-5), but it’s hard to encourage students to think differently, particularly if there’s going to be a semester grade at the end.

      I like the badge approach, too — do you get this, or are you still working on it? But many English teachers say writing skills aren’t that concrete and discrete. Especially for fundamental writing skills (e.g., grammar, punctuation, basic paragraph structure, basic introduction elements), I say it’s possible to name what I want my students to be able to do and then to assess their progress. Do my students “get” subject-verb agreement or not? What about serial commas? Or how to write a functional thesis?

      I’d love to hear your (and others’) thoughts about this — is it possible (and/or good practice) to teach writing in this kind of “checklist” way?

  4. Keith Mukai

    Very cool!

    I’m EssayTagger’s creator and I occasionally search for blog posts that mention us. I really like Kevin’s approach here.

    I’d suggest an even quicker shorthand: instead of “grmr.me/csp”, just start at the slash (“/csp”) and train students that if the comments starts with a slash, that means it’s a grmr.me link.

    Now Kevin needs to integrate with students’ Google apps accounts so he can track which videos they’ve watched and which exercises they’ve completed. Basically it would be Khan Academy for grammar.

  5. Mark Isero

    Thank you for the comment, Keith. I definitely think Kevin might be heading in the direction of making a Khan Academy for grammar. (And if teachers use EssayTagger, they can add /csp when adding a comment.)

    About EssayTagger: I just looked again at your product, and I’m thoroughly impressed by its development and improvements from just a few months ago. It’s really strong! And I’m appreciative that you’ve heard the concerns of teachers — that “[t]eachers shouldn’t have to pay for EssayTagger out of their own pocket” and that “[w]e’re all in agreement that this should be a service provided by school administrators.” You’re right on. Thank you.

    • Mark Isero

      Thank you for your comment, Kevin. Grmr.me is great. You have already hit a number of my students’ most-egregious writing felonies. As far as possible next steps, I would suggest a whole series on apostrophes! My students have lost all control of their apostrophe use. (Some even add apostrophes to verbs, e.g., “she say’s.”) I’m hoping that grmr.me can help them!

  6. Kevin Brookhouser

    Mark,

    I’ll get to work on apostrophes. I just read a student essay today that read, “She want’s …” I understand why students commit the “it’s” error, but where does this apostrophe come from? Great blog!

    Kevin

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